Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Past Deadine: Où est le dictionnaire?

On Saturday I hung out with about 1,900 cyclists when the Vélo Québec tour hit Perth.

No, I have not switched from running to cycling. I still have left over fear-of-head-trauma-after-Grade-12-cycling incident issues. (You are thinking: “Well THAT explains a few things!”) Besides, it is hard to cycle while wearing a long period costume.

Saturday was a hot humid day to be wearing pioneer garb, so what I lacked in generating heat from exercise, I made up for by wearing heavy clothing. I seem to be drawn to events that require me to wear layers of clothing on hot days (i.e. Kilt Run).

Anyway, I was at Conlon Farm with a group of other intrepid pioneer-garbed volunteers hosting a Friends of Murphys Point booth. We were promoting the many treasures found at the provincial park, including our upcoming Heritage Mica Festival. (It will be chock full of fun stuff during the last two weekends of August and the first two weekends of September.)

Needless to say, we pioneer women stood out amid the cycling shorts and tank tops. We were WAY to conspicuous to sneak into the line-up for the awesome-looking food for the cyclists.

The Vélo Québec tour, by the way, is really something. This renowned bicycle touring organization is a huge production – complete with its own transport truck shower houses, a giant tent for meals, a tent city for sleeping, a stage with entertainment, a luggage truck, a pub tent and bicycle repairs, massage therapists and so much more. The organizers look after everything so the cyclists can concentrate on the business of cycling.

Our booth joined others promoting local tourism, and we had lots of curious cyclists checking us out and talking about our lovely town and area.

At least I’m pretty sure that’s what they were saying.

There was a day when I was reasonably competent in French, but that was a couple of decades ago, and I think it was just one day. Suffice it to say, I am rusty. Comment dites-vous, “rusty”?

Now, si vous parlez lentement, I might be able to smile and nod enthusiastically and actually understand what you are saying, but I have a tough time responding. The vocabulary flies from my head or flops clumsily from my mouth.

Fortunately we had a fluent volunteer on hand (yay Jane!) while I was there, so I could be the smiling nodder. When francophones conversed with The Fluent One, I could get at least the gist of the conversation – and sometimes pretty much the whole darned thing!

On my own, though, I would freeze to the point of barely being able to speak English because I was trying so hard to be understood. I am SUCH a dork!

For example, I tried to tell one lady that Murphys Point is a “parc provincial,” but couldn’t pronounce “provincial” all French-like even after three tries. The Fluent One said, “Oh, just say it in English.” I think I could have gotten away with that word.

In fact, when listening to numerous conversations that were “lente” enough, it was easily seen how context and a good accent can make all the difference. I heard The Fluent One telling a man in French that the mica mineral “est fire retardant.” He didn’t blink an eye.

Unfortunately, I have never been convincing with accents, so I am self-conscious about my French pronunciation. It’s so much cooler to freeze and talk like a dork in English instead.

Yeah, as I said, my core French schooling was a long day ago, and with language, you’ve got to lose it or lose it.

It was fun at the Vélo Québec event to scrape off some of that rust and have French dancing through my head again. The cyclists were so gracious and forgiving as we stumbled along. In fact, we heard organizers say it was nice that so many folks in town greeted guests with hearty “bonjours” and “au revoirs.”

Still, I couldn’t help but relax a tiny bit when my “Bonjour!” was greeted with “Hi! I’m from Windsor!”

Congrats to the organizers for this great event, and to the cyclists who have many hundreds of miles yet to go, “Bonne chance!”

Published in The Perth Courier, Aug. 11/11

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